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Northern snakehead, Channa argus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Channidae
Genus: Channa
Scopoli, 1777
Type species
Channa orientalis
Bloch & J. G. Schneider, 1801
  • Bostrychoides Lacepède, 1801
  • Channa Gronow, 1763 (unavailable as Gronow's 1763 work was rejected)
  • Ophicephalus Bloch, 1793
  • Philypnoides Bleeker, 1849
  • Psiloides G. Fischer, 1813
  • Pterops Rafinesque, 1815

Channa is a genus of the Channidae family of snakehead fish. This genus contains about 29 species, but the most well known are probably the northern snakehead (Channa argus) and the giant snakehead (Channa micropeltes). Channa has a wide natural distribution extending from Iran in the west, to China in the east, and parts of Siberia in the Far East. They are one of the most common staple food fish in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and other South East Asian countries where they are extensively cultured. Apart from their importance as a food fish, snakeheads are also consumed as a therapeutic for wound healing as well as reducing post-operative pain and discomfort, and collected for the international aquarium pet trade. The diets of various species of Channa include fish, frogs, snakes, rodents, birds, and insects. Some can move on land like snakes, and breathe air.

The taxonomy of the genus Channa is incomplete and a comprehensive revision of the family has not been performed. A phylogenetic study in 2010 has also indicated the likelihood of the existence of more undescribed species of channids in South East Asia.[1] In June 2011, the Malabar snakehead Channa diplogramma from peninsular India was shown to be a distinct species, 146 years after its initial description and 134 years after it was synonymised with C. micropeltes, establishing it is an endemic species of peninsular India. The study also suggested that the species shared a most recent common ancestor with C. micropeltes, around 9.52 to 21.76 MYA.[2][3]

In Assamese it is called goroi. In Malayalam it is called varal.


The 34 currently recognized species in this genus are:[4][5]


  1. ^ Adamson E. A. S., Hurwood D. A., Mather P. A. (2010): A reappraisal of the evolution of Asian snakehead fishes (Pisces, Channidae) using molecular data from multiple genes and fossil calibration. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 56 (2), Pages 707–717
  2. ^ Benziger, A., Philip, S., Raghavan, R., Anvar Ali, P. H., Sukumaran, M., et al. (2011) Unraveling a 146 Years Old Taxonomic Puzzle: Validation of Malabar Snakehead, Species-Status and Its Relevance for Channid Systematics and Evolution. PLoS ONE 6(6): e21272. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021272
  3. ^ Li, X., Musikasinthorn, P., Kumazawa, Y. (2006): Molecular phylogenetic analyses of snakeheads (Perciformes: Channidae) using mitochondrial DNA sequences. Ichthyological Research 53 (2) pp 148-159
  4. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2013). Species of Channa in FishBase. August 2013 version.
  5. ^ a b Britz, R. (2013): Channa andrao, a new species of dwarf snakehead from West Bengal, India (Teleostei: Channidae). Zootaxa, 3731 (2): 287–294.